Shrimp, Leek, and Pine Nut Fried Rice

蝦仁炒飯

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    2–3

    as a one-bowl meal .

Appears in

This is a dish of my own devising, one which combines the northern Chinese taste for leeks, the eastern penchant for pine nuts, and the southern Chinese liking for shrimp with fried rice. It would prove baffling to a food historian, but I think it delicious.

  • Unlike the more homey fried rice recipes above, this is a rather grand bowlful owing to the relative expense of the ingredients and the care required to prepare them. Use only short- or medium-grain rice; its plump shape and creamy texture mate perfectly with the shrimp and the pine nuts.
  • If possible, marinate the shrimp 12–24 hours to give them time to absorb the seasonings. With preparations done, stir-frying the rice takes only 10–15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • cups cold cooked rice, short- or medium-grain best
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ pound small or medium-size fresh shrimp (for a note on “fresh” shrimp)

To marinate the shrimp

  • 1 tablespoon egg white
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ pound tender, young leeks (to yield cup thinly sliced leeks)
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 3–4 cups fresh corn or peanut oil, for velveting the shrimp

To stir-fry the leeks

  • teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • teaspoon sugar
  • teaspoons Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • about 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Method

Preparations

Cook the rice. Fluff, let stand until cool, then seal airtight and refrigerate overnight. Or, for use within the hour, spread the rice on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, until cool.

Separate one of the eggs and measure out 1 tablespoon egg white for the shrimp. Lightly beat the yolk and remaining white together with 2 whole eggs, then seal airtight and refrigerate until use, overnight if desired.

Shell and devein the shrimp, rinse, then pat dry. Combine the reserved egg white, wine, salt, and cornstarch in a small bowl, whisking until smooth and slightly thick. Add the shrimp, toss well with your fingers to coat, then seal airtight and refrigerate at least 3–6 hours so the shrimp absorb the marinade. For best results, refrigerate a full 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Trim the leeks of their stems and green tops, leaving only 1 inch of the more tender, light green neck. Cut in half lengthwise, and discard the outer layer of leek if it is, as typically, tough, wilted, or discolored. Slice the leeks crosswise into thin half-moons, a scant ¼ inch thick. Rinse thoroughly in a large bowl of cold water, stirring to dislodge dirt, then drain and rinse again. Shake off excess water and put aside until use, sealed airtight and refrigerated, overnight if you like.

Toasting the pine nuts and velveting the shrimp

An hour to 30 minutes before stir-frying the rice, spread the pine nuts on a heavy jelly-roll pan or doubled baking sheets (to prevent browning the bottoms of the nuts), and toast in a preheated 300° oven until fragrant and only lightly speckled with brown, about 4–5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a shallow dish.

About 15–20 minutes in advance of stir-frying, assemble all the ingredients within easy reach of your stovetop. Have an extra bowl and a large Chinese mesh spoon or metal sieve that will nest directly on top of the bowl nearby. Put a large serving bowl or individual rice bowls in a low oven to warm.

Heat a wok or deep, heavy skillet over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add the oil for velveting, then heat to the slow-fry stage, 275° on a deep-fry thermometer, reducing the heat to medium or low once it has reached 200° to prevent it from climbing too quickly. When the oil reaches 275°, turn off the heat and slide the shrimp into the oil. They will sink to the bottom and bubble gently. Nudge the shrimp gently with chopsticks to keep them afloat and separate until they turn 90 percent pinkish-white, about 15–20 seconds, then scoop them immediately from the oil in one movement with the mesh spoon or sieve. Hold the shrimp briefly above the oil to drain, then put the spoon or sieve atop the waiting bowl to let them drain further. They will look mottled, and the inside will be raw.

Proceed immediately to stir-fry the rice. If you must use the deep-frying pot, then very carefully drain the oil into a heatproof bowl or pot. Use the hot oil for stir-frying. When the remainder cools, it may be strained and bottled for future use.

Stir-frying the dish

Have an extra bowl nearby to hold the eggs and beat them lightly to recombine.

Heat a wok or a medium-size, heavy skillet or omelet pan over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2½ tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, then reduce the heat to moderate. When the oil is hot enough to puff a drop of egg on contact, add the eggs. Allow several seconds for them to puff and swell and the bottom to set, then gently push the cooked egg to the far side of the pan, tilting the pan toward you if needed so the uncooked, liquid portion flows beneath and comes in contact with the pan. Repeat the process until there is no liquid egg left to flow, then immediately scrape the egg into the bowl and break it into bits. It should be soft, slightly runny, and golden. (If you cooked it to 100 percent doneness, then you cooked it too long. If it has browned, then the heat was too high.)

Wipe the wok clean of any egg bits, then return it or a large, heavy skillet to high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add 2½ tablespoons oil, swirl to coat the pan, then reduce the heat to medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one piece of leek, add the leeks. Stir-fry briskly to coat them with the oil, adjusting the heat so they sizzle merrily without scorching. When evenly glazed, sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and sugar, then toss until they turn supple and soft, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, stir several times to mix, then sprinkle in the wine. Pause a split second to allow the alcohol to “explode” in a fragrant hiss, toss to blend, then add the rice to the pan. Toss briskly to combine and heat the rice through, about 2 minutes, lowering the heat if the rice starts to scorch and pushing the rice to one side and dribbling in a bit more oil from the side of the pan if necessary to prevent sticking. Once hot, reduce the heat to low and season the rice carefully with salt, keeping it on the light side to show off the richness of the pine nuts. When the taste is right, return the eggs to the pan and toss gently to combine, then sprinkle in the pine nuts and toss 5–10 seconds to mix, until the mixture is heated through.

For best flavor, serve immediately. If the rice must be held, cover it tightly and place it in a steamer set over low heat or in a low oven. If it was cooked in a heavy pot, the pot may be taken off the heat and covered tightly and the rice will stay warm for about 20 minutes.

Leftovers will keep 3–4 days, refrigerated and sealed airtight. Reheat, covered tightly, in a steamer set over high heat or in a hot oven.

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